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Disabled man drags himself off plane after Air Canada fails to offer wheelchair

Air Canada has been forced to apologize after a man with spastic cerebral palsy was forced to drag himself off a plane when the flagship carrier failed to provide a wheelchair for him.

Rodney Hodgins, 49, a hardware salesman from British Columbia who requires the use of a motorized wheelchair, flew to Las Vegas with his wife, Deanna, to celebrate their anniversary in August.


But when the plane landed, the flight attendant told the couple there wasn’t time to get a wheelchair on board before the plane had to prepare for takeoff again, Deanna Hodgins wrote in a recent Facebook post.


When the attendant said Hodgins would have to pull himself off the plane alone, the couple at first thought she was joking – but then she repeated the request.


“I said, ‘Of course I can’t. I’m in a wheelchair. I can’t walk,’” he told the Canadian Press.

Hodgins was forced to use his upper body strength to haul himself past 12 rows of seats, with his wife holding his legs.


In her Facebook post, Deanna Hodgins said the event left the couple devastated.


“It took us struggling, in front of a dozen people as some looked away and others looked on with shame, to get him off that plane … he hurt his legs and I hurt my back – emotionally a lot more was hurt … my husband’s human rights were trampled on and Air Canada won’t respond to us, and never did reach out like they promised,” she wrote. “Rod is the most beautiful human on the planet and didn’t deserve this at all.”


She said the couple had planned the trip for eight months and made sure they took care of all requirements on their end. “Air Canada failed us in every sense.”


The company acknowledged Hodgins received inadequate support.


“We use the services of a third party wheelchair assistance specialist in Las Vegas to provide safe transport on and off aircraft,” the statement read. “Following our investigation into how this serious service lapse occurred, we will be evaluating other mobility assistance service partners in Las Vegas.”


In October, Air Canada lost the wheelchair of Canada’s chief accessibility officer Stephanie Cadieux, who described the experience as “immensely frustrating and dehumanizing”. Cadieux said the incident reflected a need for airlines to better improve accessibility.


Hodgins says he was offered a C$2,000 flight voucher by the airline, but said compensation would not “fix the problem” of how the airline failed its disabled passengers.


“I just wanted to make a difference for somebody else so they don’t have to experience that again,” he said


This article originally appeared on The Guardian.

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